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COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS: 21. "No Way Back"
Thursday, March 17, 2005

"Sarah makes her decision but she is not the only one who has to live with it."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2259    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "NO WAY BACK" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Mal/Sarah. RATING: PG-13 STATUS: SEQUEL to "GIVE AND TAKE" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://carlajane.50megs.com/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "Sarah makes her decision but she is not the only one who has to live with it." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.

"NO WAY BACK"

A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Malcolm Reynolds could not believe what he was hearing. His gorram heart seemed to stop beating, all the air rushed out of his lungs and the planets froze in their orbits. Shock gripped him. As the full import of what Sarah was saying sank in, feeling returned with all the tender subtlety of freezer burn. "What you sayin', *xin gan*?"

She sat next to him on the bed in his bunk. His hands cradled in hers, as if she could draw strength from his touch. "I can't stay, Mal." "*Weishenme*? Don't make sense to just up an' leave when it ain't what either of us wants."

"It wouldn't work, Mal." She said softly. Alarmed by how much her words were hurting him and steeling her heart against backing down now. Her mind was made up, she just had to make him see that. "It's for the best, *ai ren*."

He stared at her in disbelief. "The best?" Anger and frustration took over from the hurt but she could see the pain in his eyes, her heart faltering even while she shored it up with every good reason to move on. Shara-li was right, she should never have come, but she couldn't bring herself to regret a single moment. He was the man she would love for the rest of her gorram life. The Captain got to his feet, unable to sit still and listen to this *goushi*. "I seem to recall a certain young lady came traipsin' after me so don't try tellin' me this is for the best. I didn't drag you out here an' you know it."

Sarah stood and closed the gap so she could touch him, feeling the tension and hating that she was the cause. "*Wo zhidao*, Mal, that was my mistake. My weakness. *Duibuqi*."

"That all I am to you, Sarah?" His voice began to crack. "A mistake? A weakness?"

It hurt to hear her words come back at her but what had she expected? She was breaking his heart whether she intended to or not. Sarah wished she had not taken Inara's advice. Should have just gone, left a note or somesuch. But even as she thought it she knew it was not an option. She could not do that to him. As painful as this was she owed it to him to say goodbye face to face.

"You got a place with me, Sarah. Already made one in my heart, *dong ma*? Thought you wanted that too."

Her hand slid down his arm in a soothing gesture. The two of them so close yet so far away. "I do but this..."

Mal pounced on her hesitation. "This what?"

"I can't live this kind of life, Mal." She said gently, willing him to understand.

"We have good days, *xin gan*. An' I got a good crew, good boat. We got the whole 'verse to explore. We can go anywhere you want."

She sighed. Malcolm Reynolds was a good man but the run in with Niska had shaken her to the core. The discovery that the twisted *tamade tundan* had once caught Mal and tortured him haunted her. It had taken some wheedling to get the full story out of Wash and the tale had chilled her. The pilot had been upset just describing what that *liumang* had done to him and the Captain. The notion that Niska was the kind of man that would never give up was a nightmare she could not bear to be a part of. She didn't want to spend the rest of her life looking over her shoulder or Mal's. Mal said they were safe, that the danger was gone, but for how long? How long would it be until the next crisis? The Captain's voice was muffled when he spoke, holding her so close she could not see his face.

"Don't do this, Sarah." He pleaded. "*Qing*."

Instead of answering him with words she raised her head then drew him down for a kiss. His hesitant lips became firmer, hers hungry and demanding. In a slow building firestorm of passion she did not tell him how she felt, she showed him. Each touch, each kiss, each murmured word a gift of love. He thought she had changed her mind, was all kinds of relieved and happy. Sarah stripped him quickly not giving him time to think. Savouring each moment, responding to his touch while her heart ached for love of him. The narrow bed creaking as she eased him onto his back, her body nakedly flowing over his, her fingers trailing across warm skin while her lips followed. He opened his mouth to speak but she paused, shook her head as she caught his eye then he let her do with him as she pleased.

As their passion deepened, the slick glide of bodies in motion built higher and higher towards the zenith of emotional and physical release. Glistening with exertion she slowed him down, the effort making Mal moan low and deep with lust, his control fragmenting while he tried to hold on. To give her what she wanted even as she drove him crazy with her womanly wiles. He loved her, so much that the air he breathed was only precious when filled with the scent of her. Every cell in his body responding to her nearness, every beat in his heart to her touch.

Afterwards they lay sated and content. He was tired but she wasn't finished with him yet, a look in her eyes that had more than a hint of the devil in them. He wanted to ask her what she was up to but she never let him speak, her mouth devouring his more slowly now, her hands warm and busy as they slid across his body. Touching and teasing. When she finally broke off the kiss so he could breathe he stared at her. "Don't think I can come again..."

It was an apology she would not accept. "Go to sleep, *xin gan*."

He stiffled a yawn, his eyes glazing with the merest hint of suspicion. "What you up to woman? How'd I know you ain't gonna have your wicked way with me while I sleep?"

A smile bowed her lips, her hand sliding lower. "That's exactly what I intend to do."

He looked shocked but it was a happy shock. Pleased that they were no longer fighting and that there was no more talk of leaving. Mal reached out and drew her close. His sigh swallowed in her kiss as she got to work on him again. When he finally dropped off to sleep Sarah allowed herself the luxury of watching him, one hand drawing lazy circles through the cooling sweat, unable to stop touching him, loving him with every atom of her being as she bit back the threat of tears. As Mal slept he was oblivious to the goodbye in her hands. The sorry in her kiss. The breaking heart that loved him so much she could no longer stay. At last she left, pausing to drop a tender kiss on sleeping lips, her hands drifting over him in reluctant farewell, her eyes commiting every detail to memory before covering him with a blanket.

She dressed quickly now, needing to be gone. To end this. There was only one thing left to do.

Simon looked up in surprise when she entered the infirmary. Frank Reynolds had been discharged hours ago but one look at her face told him she had not come to see the Captain's uncle. "What can I do for you?"

Sarah glanced around, wondering where the doctor's crazy sister was. But there was no sign of River and that was just fine. Sarah closed the door then locked it. Simon raised his eyebrows and gave her his full attention. On the alert now.

"Perhaps you should tell me why you're here?"

He watched her walk towards him with all the grace of lithe cat. "You are bound not to break a patient's confidentiality, *dui*?"

That surprised him. "Are you feeling ill?"

She waited and Simon realised she wanted an answer. No idle chit-chat then.

"Yes, it's called the hipocratic oath."

Sarah nodded, she knew what it was called. Just needed to reinforce the notion that what happened between these four walls stayed just between them. "I need you to examine me."

Simon watched her get on the infirmary bed. Instead of just sitting on it she laid down. He was more than a little nonplussed by the way she was acting but his training kicked in. "What am I looking for?"

"Two things." As she told him his eyes widened then he went pale, taking an involuntary step back from the table.

"*Wode ma*, Sarah! Have you told him?"

"*Bu qu*. He doesn't need to know."

That shocked him. "Sarah, I'm pretty sure the Captain will want to know..."

"I've already taken steps."

Simon hoped she did not mean what he thought she meant. "Steps?"

"I cannot carry full term."

For a long long moment the two just stared at each other. "You said you had taken steps?"

Sarah nodded then explained, thinking she could just as easily be having this conversation with Shepherd Book in some confessional but all kinds of happy that she wasn't. Bad enough cluing Simon in. "*Qu*. You know that Companions have the means to... self terminate?"

He was pretty much gaping at her now. Companions? Termination? What kind of circus was this? "Sarah, I really think you need to discuss this with the Captain..."

"I've just come from Mal."

That surprised him. "You have?"

"*Qu*."

"So the Captain agrees with this... this course of action?"

Had she been in the mood she would have been amused at Simon's reluctance to call it an abortion. It soon became obvious she was not going to answer that question. It disturbed Simon on a number of levels.

"If you have already taken steps what do you need me for?"

"Because it's dyin' inside me an' I want it OUT!"

Shock. There was no other word for it. Simon was stunned. A nameless dread creeping into his gut and chilling him with apprehension. "What have you done?"

Instead of answering she began to undress. "Just check, *qing*? Normally the termination would happen a lot earlier but then I wasn't expectin' this to happen."

Simon Tam resisted the temptation to ask more questions. Sarah was so tightly wound he feared that if he dragged his heels she would storm off the ship and do something stupid in some back street abortion clinic. But then he remembered what she had said. She had already done something stupid. Now she was looking to him to what? Make sure the embryo never made it to foetus? Or kill the foetus if it was that far advanced? Or was he the licensed undertaker come to remove the body? Hide the gorram evidence so the Captain would never know? It made him feel sick, soiled and unclean but he could not ignore her. Her words already echoing inside his head with horrifying clarity - it was dying inside her. A poison then.

Silently he scrubbed up and began an internal examination. It was just as well. The foetus was small, so tiny, yet it throbbed with new life. Removing the baby would kill it but he could already tell that the baby was in distress. Already dying. Biting back the anger and the overwhelming sorrow he did what he was trained to do, automatically calculating the best way to stabilise the baby in an incubator until he could find a way to remove whatever chemical she had taken to terminate the pregnancy. The baby was so small, a couple of ounces only. Sarah was so tired, eyes closed, breathing becoming heavy. Simon let her doze and made a makeshift incubator, arguing with himself over what to do. The child still had a pulse. Weak and growing weaker but lifesigns all the same. He had a duty of care to the baby whatever the mother said and with that thought in mind he settled the tiny scrap of life inside the sterile plastic womb and raised the temperature and oxygen level then ensured nutrients were fed to his smallest patient. Once he had done all he could he knew he was only delaying the inevitable. No way would the baby survive more than a day but he had to try. Looking at the mother he decided it might be a good idea to put the incubator out of Sarah's line of sight. If she didn't ask he wouldn't have to tell her or worse still lie. Carefully he draped a blanket over the incubator and put it to one side, ensuring the leads didn't get tangled and that he had done all he could for the time being. He might not be able to save the baby but at least he could ensure the child did not die in pain. It wasn't much but would have to be enough.

Sarah woke about an hour later. Groggy but cognisant. Simon hurried over to her at the first sign that she was conscious. She blinked up at him. "Is it...?"

He gave a tight nod. "It's done."

She closed her eyes and sighed, her relief palpable like his guilt. When her eyes opened again they were apologetic. "I'm sorry I had to ask you to do this for me, Simon."

"So am I."

She could understand his anger but right now that didn't matter. It was done and suddenly her time on Serenity was over. Sarah had intended to leave with Monty but he wasn't going for another day and a half and she could not wait that long. Couldn't bear to look into Mal's eyes knowing what she had done. She started to sit up when Simon put a restraining hand on her shoulder.

"Don't. You need to rest."

Sarah shook her head, a stubborn look of grim determination making him reassess his first view of her as a bidable girl. This was no girl but a woman and one who knew a lot more about the seamy side of life than he could wish. Did the Captain know what he had gotten himself into? He thought not. For all the man's worldly ways in some things he was still a mite naive, women being a case in point. Not that he would be foolish enough to point that out to the man. The Captain was a bad man to get on the wrong side of. She persisted until with a sigh he let her go and watched her sit up. She looked drawn, tired and haunted. Anything but well. "I have to go."

He thought she meant to lie down. To rest. Simon nodded. "Just so long as you do nothing to exert yourself. Take it easy for the next day or so, *dong ma*?"

She gave him an odd look then nodded. "*Xie xie ni, Simon."

"Don't thank me Sarah, for what it's worth I don't approve and you should have talked it over with Mal before doing this."

"*Bu qu*, my baby, my body. Don't get in the middle of this, Simon. It's my decision - just glad it's over."

He said nothing but watched her leave slowly with a weight over his heart. It was hours later, the ship a quiet hum around him that was almost soothing. As if the ship herself was trying to reassure Simon Tam that it was not his fault. He had done nothing wrong. With a sigh he gazed down at the little form all wrinkled and flushed red in the incubator. A drip taped to one scrawny arm, movements minimal but still breathing. *Wode ma*, what in *diyu* was he going to tell the Captain? As if thinking about the man conjured him up, he heard Mal speak the moment he entered the infirmary.

"Hey, Simon, you see anythin' of Sarah? I've looked everywhere an' can't find head nor tail of her."

Simon froze. Reluctant to turn from the incubator and face his Captain because then he would see and Simon had no words for how he would explain what had happened. His hesitation decided the issue, the Captain walking across the infirmary to see what had taken the doctor's attention so completely that he was being ignored. As he reached the doc his steps came to a sudden halt, the breath hitched painfully in his throat. Simon closed his eyes, knowing what he must be seeing. Trying to keep the blur of tears from leaking out.

"What in the nine hells is this?"

The doctor turned, but Mal was not looking at him. The man looked stricken and Simon could not blame him. He watched the Captain walk passed him and put a hand that shook up to the clear wall of the incubator. The pain in the Captain's voice was raw. It hurt Simon to hear him almost as much as it did to look at his face.

"Tell me this ain't true?" He begged quietly with tears in his eyes.

Simon shook his head, fought to find words then struggled to get them passed his lips. "I can't do that, Captain."

Just then River came into the room and Simon wished with all his heart, much as he loved his sister, that she had chosen any other time to walk in. But then River always knew things the rest of them did not. It seemed this was no different. Mal had not looked up, all his attention on the baby struggling for life in the incubator. River went to his side, her face sad. She put her hand next to the Captain's, not touching but close enough to show solidarity and share his grief.

"He has your eyes, her hair."

Mal blinked. Turned his head to look at River, tears spilling from his eyes. River moved her hand to cover his.

"Too small to live for long. Nothing you can do."

His heart was contracting painfully. Air too thin to sustain him properly but he fought for words all the same. "*Weishenme*? Did she think I wouldn't love him?"

River shook her head, feeling the Captain's sorrow as deeply as his pain. She always had and he knew it. Connected on an instinctive level even if they never admitted as much. "*Bu qu*. She was afraid."

"Of me?" Another headshake. "No. Scared of the vulture." He blinked. "Vulture?" It took a moment to place the reference. "*Tian Yesu*, you mean Niska?" River nodded. "How the good gorram she know about him?"

"It's a small ship," She said softly, anxious not to apportion blame. River looked at the baby, her voice soft and sad. "She thought the vulture would find out, come back to search the nest. Down to the third, fourth and fifth generations of those that loved you."

"But Niska's dead, *bao bei*."

She looked at him. "*Wo zhidao, ni zhidao* but she didn't know."

The Captain tore off a long ream of invective in his most colourful Chinese. After a minute or two he seemed to remember Simon. "Doc, can you save him?"

Sadly Simon shook his head. "No, Captain, I can't. He's too premature and he's already dying."

"Then why you put him in that ruttin' box?" Simon did not take offence. Knew the Captain was not mad at him. "The baby was distressed, I didn't want him to be in any more pain than could be avoided."

Mal blinked, spread his palm against the side of the incubator and looked at his son. "Can I hold him, doc?" He sounded so pitiful, so full of pain and doomed hope that Simon did not have it in him to refuse the man. He nodded then got a soft blanket and gave it to Mal then carefully extracted the baby - wires and all - and laid him in the Captain's arms. He could not have said how long they stood there in that small sorrowing huddle but Simon would forever remember the very second of the minute of the hour the baby died. It was as if something inside the Captain had been killed stone dead. Gently Simon took the child, pausing when the Captain put a hand on his arm. He gave a questioning look then held his breath as Mal bent his head and dropped a tender kiss upon his child's tiny forehead. Tears running unheeded down his face. Simon swallowed hard. It did not help that River was crying too but he could not fall apart. River took the Captain's hand and guided him to a chair. He sat without thinking, stared without seeing, wept without feeling. River stood facing him, her sad face taking it all in and wishing she could protect him from the pain. Instead she could only share his grief. Gently she wrapped her arms around the Captain and let him cling to her, his eyes closing as silent sobs wracked him. Simon coming to stand next to them. River looked at Simon, her hushed words tearing at his heartstrings.

"Daddy is a daddy no more."

* * * * *

Sarah didn't know where she was going but had to get away. She didn't want to go to the Frye's place. It would be the first place Mal would look. With any luck she had tired him out for at least a few hours and Simon would assume she had gone back to the passenger bunk Mal had let her use for her own.

Once her initial panic to get away was over the enormity of what she had done sank in. Tears streaming down her face she tried to think, to form plans, but her mind was too numb and her body was in shock. She stared out across the rough tussocky grassland at the Frye house, the lights made it look all welcoming and warm but in her eyes she was excluded from it now. Once everyone knew the truth every hand would be against her. Every tongue would cluck with displeasure, every prayer be a curse with her name upon their lips. Not that Sarah would blame them. She had brought an innocent into the world then ended that life. By rights hers should be forfeit. She could not go back and could not go forward. Stuck, her own guilt imprisoned her.

Sarah glanced back at the landed Firefly, looked at the Kingfisher nearby, then to the Frye house. Her options were very limited. Taking a deep breath she made her choice and walked in the one direction that lead away. No idea in her head where it would lead and not caring. Just so long as she could get some distance, find shelter somewhere and hide out until they had gone. The small cache of money she had taken with her would buy her passage when she could find a ship to carry her. But best be careful. Mal would surely come looking for her and she must make sure she would not be found. In time, God willing, he might find it in his heart to forgive her even though she knew she would never be able to forgive herself.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*xin gan*/*ai ren* = sweetheart *weishenme* = why *goushi* = crap/dog shit *wo zhidao* = I know *duibuqi* = sorry *dong ma* = understand *qing* = please *liumang* = asshole/bastard/criminal/gangster *dui* = correct *diyu* = hell *tamade hundan*/*wangba dan* = fucking bastard *wode ma* = mother of God *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *qu* = yes (lit. go) *xie xie ni* = thank you *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *bao bei* = precious/treasure *ni zhidao* = you know

COMMENTS

Thursday, March 17, 2005 4:36 PM

KAYSKY


Damn...

That was intense. Very, very intense.

Friday, March 18, 2005 4:01 AM

KISPEXI2


Arrrgggh! Well, at least Mal didn't kill Simon - which I thought was a real possibility at one point. Oh my - what's he going to do to Inara when he finds out? Yikes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 4:27 PM

SHINYZOEKAYLEE


This is completely heartbreaking... :'(


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